Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Woonsocket Cross Christmas Ornaments further confuse the issue

The legal case made for defending the continued existence of the Woonsocket Cross rests on the idea that the City of Woonsocket is not trying to advance Catholicism in violation of the United States Constitution but simply trying to preserve a historic monument to veterans of WWII. As per the Lemon Test the City of Woonsocket should be avoiding an an "excessive government entanglement" with religion. It becomes harder and harder to justify this position, in my opinion, the more the city uses the cross to advertise itself and raise money. 

Mayor Fontaine reacted to the call from the Freedom from Religion Foundation [FFRF] by first holding a rally in which religious leaders such as Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin and Rhode Island Council of Churches Reverend Donald Anderson gave speeches in support of the cross. At that rally small pins in the shape of white crosses were given out. the entire affair had the air of a religious revival meeting. Later the city partnered with Pepin Lumber to sell white wooden crosses to raise money to refurbish the cross, selling over 1000 crosses and raising more than enough to make the monument look better than ever.

It would be hard to see any of these actions as not representing at least some kind of entanglement with religion.

Now the City has partnered with Pepin Lumber again to sell Christmas Ornaments featuring the Place Jolicoeur war memorial. According to Mayor Fontaine's press release:
The ornaments will be a limited issue series of 250.   They will include a numbered card which will give a brief history of the monument.  The cost of the ornament will remain at $15.  The entire proceeds from the sale of the ornament normally go to support various cultural events in the city. Though this year, a portion of the proceeds will go toward the city’s War memorial Defense and Preservation Fund.
The wooden lawn crosses were sold at Pepin Lumber, a business. These new Woonsocket Cross ornaments are going to be sold out of Woonsocket City Hall.
The ornaments will be available beginning December 17th and will be on sale at City Hall and at Pepin Lumber.  Pre Orders will be taken by calling the Mayor’s office at (401) 767-9205.
At what point should someone cry foul and call Woonsocket on this? It is becoming more and more apparent that the reason to defend this monument has nothing to do with a secular display of patriotism and support for brave patriots who gave their lives in support of this country but for the promotion of Christianity and its symbols, such as crosses and Christmas.


  1. If I lived in Woonsocket, I'd have cried foul long before this. It's all too clear when people assert their faith so stridently that they are trying too root out the heretics.

  2. Woonsocket is raising money for a possible legal defense of the monument by selling Christmas ornaments depicting that monument. I do not see any ulterior or vindictive motives behind this. Legally speaking, Woonsocket has a *very* strong case, so their wanting to defend the monument is not surprising nor is it unreasonable.